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Veteran saxophone player Joe Lovano is one of the most acclaimed and beloved horn wielders in jazz, and no wonder: with his work with Woody Herman, John Scofield, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell and Paul Motian and countless others, not to mention his own long series of LPs as leader, he’s had a large hand in defining late twentieth century postbop. For Trio Tapestry, his debut for the venerable label ECM, he enlists pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi for a more meditative program than we’re used to hearing from him. Working with less frenetic tempos and floating melodies, the saxophonist digs deep into the tracks, exploring their nooks and crannies instead of using them for takeoff. In the vein of Lovano’s old bandmate Motian, Castaldi doesn’t so much set the rhythms as imply them, while Crispell wanders across her keyboard with intent. Lovano slips into the quiet storm like a dancer, finding the core of his sidefolks’ swirl and bringing it to shimmering life. The beauteous “Seeds of Change” and “Razzle Dazzle” and tension-filled “Spirit Lake” and “Rare Beauty” showcase the trio’s telepathic interplay and sublime taste, while “The Smiling Dog” and the self-explanatory “Piano/Drum Episode” and “Gong Episode” indicate a goofy sense of humor. But “Mystic” may be the album’s heart. Barely accompanied by Castaldi, Lovano pushes the top of his horn’s range high up in the ether, like he’s eager, but not desperate, to touch the divine.
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